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Wendell Berry Berry, Wendell - Essay

Introduction

❶It has proved tragically to be a bad idea in a number of recent wars. And the result is a kind of solitude, unprecedented in human experience, in which the eater may think of eating as, first, a purely commercial transaction between him and a supplier and then as a purely appetitive transaction between him and his food.

Hell hath no limits

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No relationship can continue very long at its highest emotional pitch. But fidelity prepares us for the return of these moments, which give us the highest joy we can know; that of union, communion, atonement in the root sense of at-one-ment To forsake all others does not mean - because it cannot mean - to ignore or neglect all others, to hide or be hidden from all others, or to desire or love no others.

To live in marriage is a responsible way to live in sexuality, as to live in a household is a responsible way to live in the world. One cannot enact or fulfill one's love for womankind or mankind, or even for all the women or men to whom one is attracted. If one is to have the power and delight of one's sexuality, then the generality of instinct must be resolved in a responsible relationship to a particular person.

Similarly, one cannot live in the world; that is, one cannot become, in the easy, generalizing sense with which the phrase is commonly used, a "world citizen. Where we live and who we live there with define the terms of our relationship to the world and to humanity. We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one's partiality.

We do not understand the earth in terms either of what it offers us or of what it requires of us, and I think it is the rule that people inevitably destroy what they do not understand. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.

In both our work and our leisure, I think, we should be so employed. And in our time this means that we must save ourselves from the products that we are asked to buy in order, ultimately, to replace ourselves. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.

And this has been based on the even flimsier assumption that we could know with any certainty what was good even for us.

We have fulfilled the danger of this by making our personal pride and greed the standard of our behavior toward the world - to the incalculable disadvantage of the world and every living thing in it. And now, perhaps very close to too late, our great error has become clear.

It is not only our own creativity - our own capacity for life - that is stifled by our arrogant assumption; the creation itself is stifled. We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and to learn what is good for it.

We must learn to cooperate in its processes, and to yield to its limits. But even more important, we must learn to acknowledge that the creation is full of mystery; we will never entirely understand it. We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe.

We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it. Marriage, in other words, has now taken the form of divorce: During their understandably temporary association, the 'married' couple will typically consume a large quantity of merchandise and a large portion of each other.

The modern household is the place where the consumptive couple do their consuming. Nothing productive is done there. Such work as is done there is done at the expense of the resident couple or family, and to the profit of suppliers of energy and household technology.

For entertainment, the inmates consume television or purchase other consumable diversion elsewhere. There are, however, still some married couples who understand themselves as belonging to their marriage, to each other, and to their children. What they have they have in common, and so, to them, helping each other does not seem merely to damage their ability to compete against each other. To them, 'mine' is not so powerful or necessary a pronoun as 'ours.

The couple, that is, makes around itself a household economy that involves the work of both wife and husband, that gives them a measure of economic independence and self-employment, a measure of freedom, as well as a common ground and a common satisfaction. It answers the needs, practical as well as social and spiritual, of its members - among them the need to need one another. The answer to the present alignment of political power with wealth is the restoration of the identity of community and economy.

A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation, through experience and familiarity, of movement to place; it obeys the natural contours; such obstacles as it meets it goes around. These are all the works of God, and it is therefore the work of virtue to make or restore harmony among them. The world is certainly thought of as a place of spiritual trial, but it is also the confluence of soul and body, word and flesh, where thoughts must become deeds, where goodness must be enacted.

This is the great meeting place, the narrow passage where spirit and flesh, word and world, pass into each other. The Bible's aim, as I read it, is not the freeing of the spirit from the world. It is the handbook of their interaction. It says that they cannot be divided; that their mutuality, their unity, is inescapable; that they are not reconciled in division, but in harmony.

What else can be meant by the resurrection of the body? The body should be "filled with light," perfected in understanding. And so everywhere there is the sense of consequence, fear and desire, grief and joy.

What is desirable is repeatedly defined in the tensions of the sense of consequence. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration. In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness, and others to want. And to come to that understanding it is necessary, even now, to leave the regions of our conquest - the cleared fields, the towns and cities, the highways - and re-enter the woods.

For only there can a man encounter the silence and the darkness of his own absence. Author Rod Dreher writes that Berry's "unshakable devotion to the land, to localism , and to the dignity of traditional life makes him both a great American and, to the disgrace of our age, a prophet without honor in his native land.

The concept of " Solving for pattern ", coined by Berry in his essay [38] of the same title, is the process of finding solutions that solve multiple problems, while minimizing the creation of new problems. Berry's use of the phrase was in direct reference to agriculture, it has since come to enjoy broader use throughout the design community.

Berry for sharing his inspired work — his poem served as a guide post for me throughout this, at times meandering, project. Berry's lyric poetry often appears as a contemporary eclogue , pastoral , or elegy ; but he also composes dramatic and historical narratives such as "Bringer of Water" [45] and "July, ", [46] respectively and occasional and discursive poems "Against the War in Vietnam" [47] and "Some Further Words", [48] respectively.

Berry's first published poetry book consisted of a single poem, the elegiac November Twenty Six Nineteen Hundred Sixty Three , initiated and illustrated by Ben Shahn , commemorating the death of John F.

The elegiac here and elsewhere, according to Triggs, enables Berry to characterize the connections "that link past and future generations through their common working of the land. The first full-length collection, The Broken Ground , develops many of Berry's fundamental concerns: According to Angyal, "There is little modernist formalism or postmodernist experimentation in [Berry's] verse.

Unspecializing Poetry," Berry writes, "Devotion to order that is not poetical prevents the specialization of poetry.

A work of art, which accepts this condition, and exists upon its terms, honors the Creation, and so becomes a part of it" [51]. Lionel Basney placed Berry's poetry within a tradition of didactic poetry that stretches back to Horace: For Berry, poetry exists "at the center of a complex reminding" [53] Both the poet and the reader are reminded of the poem's crafted language, of the poem's formal literary antecedents, of "what is remembered or ought to be remembered," and of "the formal integrity of other works, creatures and structures of the world.

From to the present Berry has been writing what he calls " Sabbath poems. The Sabbath Poems This was followed by Sabbaths from to in Given: New Poems ; and those from to are in Leavings. All Sabbath poems through are published in This Day: New and Collected Sabbath Poems - Sabbaths has been published by Larkspur Press. A Small Porch contains nine Sabbath poems from and sixteen from That poem, along with fourteen others, can also be found in Sabbaths , published by Larkspur Press.

The poems are motivated by Berry's longtime habit of walking out onto the land on Sunday mornings. As he puts it, "I go free from the tasks and intentions of my workdays, and so my mind becomes hospitable to unintended thoughts: The bell calls in the town Where forebears cleared the shaded land And brought high daylight down To shine on field and trodden road.

I hear, but understand Contrarily, and walk into the woods. I leave labor and load, Take up a different story. I keep an inventory Of wonders and of uncommercial goods. The Sabbath poems have been described as "written from a particular place and on particular Sabbaths, and so should be read as part of a spiritual practice and as poems, in some sense, devoted to dwelling, to living thoughtfully in one place.

As Thoreau continues in ' Life Without Principle ,' he notes the constant busyness of Americans, so engaged in 'infinite bustle' that 'there is no sabbath. Berry's fiction to date consists of eight novels and fifty-one short stories forty-three of which are collected in That Distant Land , and A Place in Time , which, when read as a whole, form a chronicle of the fictional small Kentucky town of Port William.

Because of his long-term, ongoing exploration of the life of an imagined place, Berry has been compared to William Faulkner. Hence Berry is sometimes described as working in an idealized, pastoral, or nostalgic mode, a characterization of his work which he resists: The effect of profound shifts in the agricultural practices of the United States, and the disappearance of traditional agrarian life, [61] are some of the major concerns of the Port William fiction, though the theme is often only a background or subtext to the stories themselves.

The Port William fiction attempts to portray, on a local scale, what "a human economy … conducted with reverence" [62] looked like in the past—and what civic, domestic, and personal virtues might be evoked by such an economy were it pursued today. Social as well as seasonal changes mark the passage of time.

The Port William stories allow Berry to explore the human dimensions of the decline of the family farm and farm community, under the influence of expanding post- World War II agribusiness. But these works rarely fall into simple didacticism, and are never merely tales of decline. Each is grounded in a realistic depiction of character and community. In the course of the novel, we see how not only Mat but the entire community wrestles with the acute costs of World War II.

Berry's fiction also allows him to explore the literal and metaphorical implications of marriage as that which binds individuals, families, and communities to each other and to Nature itself—yet not all of Port William is happily or conventionally married.

The barber Jayber Crow lives with a forlorn, secret, and unrequited love for a woman, believing himself "mentally" married to her even though she knows nothing about it. Burley Coulter never formalizes his bond with Kate Helen Branch, the mother of his son.

Yet, each of these men find themselves firmly bound up in the community, the "membership," of Port William. Of his fictional project, Berry has written: By means of the imagined place, over the last fifty years, I have learned to see my native landscape and neighborhood as a place unique in the world, a work of God, possessed of an inherent sanctity that mocks any human valuation that can be put upon it.

In January, , the Library of America published a volume of Berry's fiction—the first of a projected four volumes. Merwin , Berry is one of two currently living writers in the Library of America catalog. In Berry's first novel, young Nathan "comes of age" through dealing with the death of his mother, the depression of his father Jared, the rugged companionship of his brother Tom, and the mischief of his uncle Burley.

Kirkus Review concludes, "A sensitive adolescent theme is handled rather poetically, but so uniform in tone that no drama is generated and no sense of time passing is felt. Set in the critical year of , this novel focuses on farmer Mat Feltner's struggle over the news that his son Virgil has been listed as missing in action while also telling multiple tales of the lives of other Port William residents, such as Burley Coulter, Jack Beechum, Ernest Finley, Ida and Gideon Crop.

Reprinting by North Point Press in allowed Berry to radically revise the novel, [69] removing almost a third of its original length. Jeffrey Bilbro believes that these substantial changes marked growth in Berry's approach. He allows us, as readers, to participate in the ignorance of his characters, and in doing so, we may be able to understand more fully the painful difficulty of choosing fidelity to the natural order while living in the midst of mystery. This third novel of Port William begins with Jack Beechum as a very old man in and continues back into his youth and maturity to uncover his life and work as a dedicated farmer, conflicted husband, and living link to past generations.

Josh Hurst comments on Berry's ability to avoid certain narrative pitfalls, "Jack's story could be presented us either as heroic ballad or as cautionary [tale]—and there is much in his life to support both admiration and gentle tisk-tisking—but the gift of this book is how it allows a man's memories to wash over us as though unshaped by narrative or conscious editorializing.

In Berry's fourth novel, an adult Andy Catlett wanders through San Francisco remembering, but feeling alienated from, his native Port William. He struggles to come to terms with himself, his marriage, his farm, and the distorted values of American society. Of Berry's vision here, Charles Solomon writes, "Wendell Berry contrasts modern American agribusiness--which he depicts as an artificial conglomeration of sterile flow charts, debts and mechanization--with the older ideal of farming as a nurturing way of life.

Young Andy Catlett's uncle Andrew had been murdered back in , and now an adult Andy is reconstructing the event and its aftermath. This is simple, soul-satisfying storytelling, augmented by understated humor and quiet insight. Port William's barber recounts his life's journey in Berry's sixth novel. Jayber's early life as an orphan near Port William is followed by studies towards a possible vocation to Church ministry.

A questioning mind, however, sends him in other directions until he finds himself back in Port William with an ever-growing commitment to that place and its people. As Publisher's Weekly notes, "Crow's life, which begins as WWI is about to erupt, is emblematic of a century of upheaval, and Berry's anecdotal and episodic tale sounds a challenge to contemporary notions of progress.

It is to Berry's credit that a novel so freighted with ideas and ideology manages to project such warmth and luminosity. Berry's seventh novel presents a concise vision of Port William's "membership. The tale is told in the voice of an old woman twice widowed, who has experienced much loss yet has never been defeated. Somehow, lying at the center of her strength is the "membership"—the fact that people care for each other and, even in absence, hold each other in a kind of presence. Andy Catlett, age nine, makes his first solo journey to visit with both sets of grandparents in Port William.

The New York Times reviewer notes, "What the grown-up Andy recalls of that experience is transformed into 'a sort of homage' to a now-vanished world. Title characters from Berry's earlier Port William volumes — Jayber Crow, Old Jack, Hannah Coulter — appear here in affectionate cameos as the adult Andy, echoing Wordsworth, observes that 'in my memory, all who were there From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Wendell Berry Berry in December National Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved April 26, Retrieved August 12, Retrieved March 24, My Conversation with Gurney Norman. Retrieved July 30, A Critic at Large: Retrieved July 13, Archived from the original PDF on December 3, I'm not a Baptist in any formal way.

I go to the Baptist church, where my wife plays the piano, on days of bad weather. On days of good weather, I ramble off into the woods somewhere. I am a person who takes the Gospel seriously, but I have had trouble conforming my thoughts to a denomination. The church and all of our institutions have failed to oppose the destruction of the world. A Sojourner Interview with Wendell Berry". Well, Christendom is all right, but it doesn't have to exclude everybody else.

It doesn't have to go to war against them. The Gift of Good Land. Retrieved August 22, The New York Times. Changing Farming's Uncertain Future".

Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. The Gift of Good Land: Further Essays Cultural and Agricultural.

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PORT WILLIAM SERIES FEATURED BOOKS Fiction Poetry Essays Other Titles Andy Catlett With Andy Catlett, Wendell Berry returns to Port William in the midst of the Second World War, continuing a story he .

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Wendell Berry describes the importance of understanding the connection between eating and the land in order to extract pleasure from our food.

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- Out of Your Car, Off Your Horse Wendell Berry in his essay Out of Your Car, Off Your Horse, lends favor to thinking globally is a bad idea. He endorses the idea of thinking . B y Wendell Berry’s pacifist thinking, as indicated in an earlier essay, can be summed up as follows: He can no longer imagine any justifiable war. Violence has .

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Wendell Berry American poet, novelist, short story writer, essayist, and translator. In his poetry and prose, Berry documents the rural lifestyle of his native Kentucky. Critics and scholars have acknowledged Wendell Berry as a master of many literary genres, but whether he is writing poetry, fiction, or essays, his message is essentially the same: humans must learn to live in harmony with .